Van Graan defends Saffa influx

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 07:56
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Munster head coach Johann van Graan has denied that bringing in two South Africa teenagers is detrimental to the development of local-born Irish players.

Matt Moore and Keynon Knox, both just 18, have joined up with the Munster Academy.

The two completed their schooling in December, at Michaelhouse and St Andrew's College respectively.  

Knox, a tighthead prop, was a member of the KwaZulu-Natal at the Under-18 Craven Week team and also captained the Michaelhouse First XV.

Moore, who plays at centre and fullback, played for the Eastern Province Country Districts at the 2016 Craven Week, during his penultimate year in school. He also represented the Eastern Province Under-19 team.

The duo's move to Ireland means that in three years they will be Irish qualified.

When asked if there are any concerns about any impact the decision to bring the pair to Munster would have on young local club and schools players who harboured dreams of playing for the province, Van Graan revealed that Munster always seek homegrown talent first before scouting abroad.  

"Munster have done their succession planning very, very well. These two young players have been brought in before I came to Munster, but it has been a thorough process," Van Graan told the Limerick Leader newspaper.

"No, I don’t believe that it sends out the wrong message. I think the important thing for Munster is to look at the homegrown players first.

"If you look at the current squad, I believe over 70 percent are homegrown players and it is important that we back players from Munster first,"

"If players are identified, look at the senior squad, you possibly need to bring guys in I think every team in the world does it. We have a very good culture and history here at Munster and we need to look after that,"

Meanwhile, there is good news on the injury front for Munster, with Tyler Bleyendaal closer to a return from his neck problem.

Van Graan is hopeful that the 27-year-old New Zealander would be back in contention to play within four weeks.

"I won’t say we’re out of the woods yet. We’re still taking it day by day like I said before. Obviously, he’s our number one concern and he’s looking after himself very, very well and so are the medical team. It’s great to have him back at training, he’s a vibrant player,"

Bleyendaal, who has been out since October, was Munster’s player-of-the-season last year and Van Graan is itching to have him available.

"I just watched the Toulouse quarter-final of last year and the semi-final against Saracens and he’s a special player. It’ll be great to have him back later in the competition,"

Munster finished top of Pool 4 in the Champions Cup and host Toulon in the quarter-finals at Thomand Park on March 31.

By Nathaniel Cope, Rugbypass

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